May 10, 2021

Phenotyping and Plant Genetics

What is the most important aspect of cannabis cultivation? The answer is both simple and complex - plant genetics and phenotyping! Firstly, lets clarify what is meant by genetics and phenotyping. Each strain of cannabis is a genotype – this refers to the genetic characteristics of the plant such as DNA, whereas the phenotype refers to the physical characteristics of the strain, such as bud sites, potency, and flower size. Think of it this way – you and your family are of the same genetic lineage, however you each have very different physical characteristics. This is very similar to the differences observed between cannabis genotypes and phenotypes.

At Steel City Green we are constantly sprouting and testing new strains. In April we concluded a fifty-seven-strain test in addition to sprouting an additional twenty-six strains. As stated previously – it’s not just about finding the right strain, it's about finding the right seed. Consider this – cannabis can contain hundreds of different compounds (called cannabinoids and terpenes). The most valuable cannabis compounds in the marketplace are THC, CBD and terpenes. This is because THC is a psychoactive compound, CBD is a therapeutic compound, and terpenes provide smell, flavor and other qualities. For this reason, we seek strains that show high levels of these substances. This does not preclude other cannabinoids that can do amazing things and hold value – they have just not been identified yet. We are truly in the early days of this burgeoning industry.

When the Steel City Green team selects cultivars we do so using a process that ensures only the most desirable phenotypes get chosen for our production. We start by sprouting seeds, turning those seeds into mother plants and taking clones when ready, then flowering those clones and doing our lab analysis to determine the viability of the phenotype. Once the lab results come in, we can decide on the future of that phenotype and determine whether it makes it into full-scale production or not. To give insight into a widely-varying example of genetic variation, consider this: we took 20 seeds of our HiFi 4G strain and tested each one. The variation was 8-23% THC. Of course, we selected the highest testing phenotypes for production. It’s a learning curve any new cannabis grower must become accustomed to – just because you have an excellent strain does not mean you will have a winning phenotype.

Finding those winning phenotypes can be a time-consuming challenge. From sprouting of the seeds to scaling of the desired phenotype can take 8 months! The creation of our genetic library is a continuous process to which we conscientiously attend. With our on-site mother and research facility, we have the ability to store any desirable phenotype we think is worth keeping. This has led to an extensive library of winning phenotypes that in time will allow Steel City Green to lead the way in producing quality cannabis. We promise to only bring our best findings to the market.


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